Johannesburg - ANC presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu seems to have abandoned her presidential campaign and thrown her lot in with ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, wherein Sisulu appears to want to serve as Ramaphosa's deputy.
In a joint statement attributed to both Ramaphosa and Sisulu, which The Star has seen, both senior party members "welcomed with humble appreciation" the branch nominations for Ramaphosa and Sisulu to be ANC president and deputy president respectively.
This seemingly contradicts the stance Ramaphosa took last month at a rally in the Sekhukhune district, where the deputy president announced what he said was "The Winning Team", which included Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor as Ramaphosa's deputy.
However, Pandor failed to garner enough branch nominations for the deputy presidency in the five provinces where Ramaphosa received the most nominations, where Sisulu and ANC treasurer-general Dr Zweli Mkhize were the branches' preferred candidates to be Ramaphosa's deputy.
Sisulu, who had been running a presidential campaign centred on the motto "It's a Must", failed to receive a provincial nomination for the ANC presidency.
A provincial nomination is one of the prerequisites in the party's constitution in order for a member to appear on the ballot paper at an elective conference.
With the ANC's 54th National Elective Conference kicking off on Saturday at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Joburg, it seems the Ramaphosa and Sisulu campaigns have joined forces in what could strengthen Ramaphosa's bid to succeed President Jacob Zuma as ANC president.
The conference runs from December 16 to 20, where the party's national officials as well as the more than 80 national executive committee members are expected to be elected.
Thursday's joint statement gave a strong indication that both Ramaphosa and Sisulu were willing to work with each other in the forthcoming party leadership, thanking the branches for the nominations.
"The two candidates have also noted the overwhelming support from different stakeholders in civil society, business, organised labour, veterans of the ANC and military veterans," the statement read.
"As disciplined members of the ANC, Comrades Cyril Ramaphosa and Lindiwe Sisulu have agreed to work together to ensure that the wishes of the branches of the ANC are realised at the upcoming 54th National Conference of the ANC.
"The candidates have recommitted themselves to ensure that the will of the branches is carried through during discussion of policy matters and the election of the officials," the statement emphasised.
It added that both Ramaphosa and Sisulu were continuing to engage branches which nominated them, as well as other stakeholders.
Ramaphosa is expected to be up against former AU chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the presidency, while Sisulu could be taking on Mpumalanga ANC chairperson David Mabuza, who is also the province's premier.